Mars, meat, monkeys: the best science of 2018

Ground-breaking: A subsurface lake on Mars; a new “slaughter-free” steak; Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua.

Will they change the world? 2018 has been a year of fascinating experiments and mind-blowing discoveries in science. We take a look at three of the best from the past year…

1/ Water on Mars. For decades, scientists searched and found only ice on the red planet. Until July, that is, when a NASA radar detected a lake of liquid water under the planet’s south polar ice cap.

The discovery boosts hopes that we may one day find microbial life on Mars, which would prove that life is not unique to Earth.

2/ Lab-grown meat. Also known as “slaughter-free” meat, it can be grown from animal cells in a laboratory. Researchers hope to satisfy the planet’s taste for meat without the environmental and animal welfare issues related to farming.

Lab-grown meat is not available to the public yet, but companies are racing to get it there. The first lab-grown steak has just been produced in Israel.

3/ Cloned monkeys. In January, scientists in China successfully cloned two monkeys, Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua, using the same technique that was used to create Dolly the Sheep. The primates will be used to study diseases. In creating them, scientists overcame a major “technical barrier” to cloning humans — although they insist there are no plans to do so.

In the year that saw the world’s first gene-edited babies, genetic science is set to pose more moral problems in the future.

Will these discoveries save the world?

The world of tomorrow

Yes! say some. In this list alone, we have discoveries that could soon cure cancer and save the environment from destruction. Science has always made the world safer and richer. The possibilities of human ingenuity are endless and growing at every moment.

Don’t get ahead of yourself, respond others. Science on its own isn’t enough: it’s governments that truly hold the power. For example, scientists can produce as many studies warning of climate change disaster as they want, but the science isn’t worth much if Donald Trump doesn’t listen.

You Decide

  1. Who has more power to change the world, scientists or politicians?

Activities

  1. Write your own definition of the word “science”. Compare your definitions in groups. Are they the same or different, and in what way?

Some People Say...

“Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing.”

Wernher von Braun

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Many areas of science have accelerated rapidly in 2018. For example, in genetic science, monkeys were cloned for the first time, and gene-edited human babies were born. In physics, scientists got closer to understanding mysterious particles called neutrinos.
What do we not know?
What the future holds. Science is always changing and developing.

Word Watch

Polar ice cap
Like Earth, the north and south poles of Mars are covered in ice.
Microbial
A tiny form of life, invisible to the naked eye.
Environmental
Scientists say a non-meat diet is “the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth”.
Dolly the Sheep
Dolly was the first animal to be cloned from an adult cell.
Primates
A group of animals including monkeys, apes and humans.
Babies
A Chinese scientist, He Jianku,i claims that he edited the DNA of twins so that they will never be able to get HIV.
Ingenuity
Being clever and original.

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